Friday, February 23, 2018

Music Review:
Linqua Franqa
"Model Minority"

Back in the 1990's when I was growing up I listened to a lot of hip-hop on cassette.   When I look back though, I notice there is a lot of women missing from the genre and in a lot of ways there still is.   Maybe the only mainstream woman in hip-hop worth noting is Nicki Minaj.   So what happens when Linqua Franqa comes out with music that not only easily distinguishes her from her peers by being the voice of the seemingly unheard but also because the music is like some of my favorite artists out there?  You're in for a real treat if you don't know about this one yet.

As much as you're going to get those stereotypical comparisons to other women in hip-hop: and I mean old school like Queen Latifah and Salt N Pepa (I literally love the episode of "Fresh Prince" with Queen Latifah on it) and they may seem valid, this has a lot other aspects to it as well, musically.   Right away I hear elements of Das Efx, Tribe and even Us3.  It's that hip-hop with soul, that bit of R&B/jazz fused into it.    It's not something you hear a lot of these days, unfortunately, and I really wish more rappers would go this route than whatever 99.9% of the radio is doing right now. 

Lyrically, I am impressed with the songs on "Model Minority" because they have a quality to them that not many other artists want to speak about.   They can talk about drugs in an illegal state but they also talk about drugs in a medicated way.   Much of the words can be fueled by mental health, such as lyrics about carving into her own wrist, thoughts of suicide, etc.   I think it's important to talk about these things because putting it out there just shows other people they're not alone and it sounds cheesy but we're all stronger together.

So you want to know what "Model Minority" means?  Is it because Linqua Franqa is a woman in a world dominated by mostly men?  Probably not because that seems to be an issue no matter what career path a woman chooses to take.  Is it because of her race?  Nah.  Is it because her music tends to be different from the stuff made by Drake and those who copy him?  I think that's part of it.   I think on the surface someone might think of Linqua Franqa as a minority because of her race or gender but really it's more about the style of music she flawlessly executes coupled with subject matter almost no one else wants to talk about these days.

Music Review:
My Name Is Rar-Rar / Xaddax
"Mr. Deer : Ripper"
(SKiN GRAFT Records)

I've always been a fan of music that doesn't follow the traditional ways of doing things.   Right away, you can tell that My Name Is Rar-Rar and Xaddax are not going to be like other bands.   This album- "Mr. Deer : Ripper"- comes from SKiN GRAFT Records as both a compact disc and 7" record.   The thing is, as the 7" record you only get four songs but as a CD (or digitally) you get an entire album's worth of songs from My Name Is Rar-Rar and then the two songs from Xaddax.    My Name Is Rar-Rar is a band that used to be together in the early '00s and kind of went underappreciated.   Now they are having the majority of their songs released altogether here for the first time.   That's my understanding of it, but I'll let you read all about that yourself since you can on the Bandcamp page.   There are also two different covers- one for each artist- and I enjoy that aspect of this as well.

My Name Is Rar-Rar has this experimental, weirdo, outsider type of rock n roll sound.   At times it can remind me of more recent artists I've just reviewed such as Folie A Deux and R. Clown, but the thing of course you need to remember is that this music was created almost twenty years ago so back then... I was listening to emo and a lot of hardcore- like Victory Records and Equal Vision Records stuff, even The Militia Group.   But some time around 2005 I got to a point where I felt like new music didn't appeal as much to me and I kind of fell out of the scene.   I was in Houston, Texas at the time though, so I still got to hear a lot of great bands and I feel like My Name Is Rar-Rar could have come through at some point and played at Super Happy Fun Land, especially during their SXSW Overflow Fest.

This music is energetic.   It's somewhat punk, maybe art punk, and then it spazzes out just as well.  There are bits of video game sounds in it.   The vocals at times can sound like Golem while at other times sound high pitched as if the tape is being sped up.   Through it all though, the one thing I keep telling myself whenever I listen to this (And I've listened to it well more than once) is that despite all of the chaos and the way this just seems to be free of traditional song structure, when it comes down to it, there is still an incredible amount of musical talent in here.   The fact that these songs can be played at this pace, these starts and stops, this rhythmic grind, with such precision is a true testament to those playing them.   Not just anyone could pull this off and people might press play on this and think it's too weird for them but the musical talent involved is astounding.

After ten songs of My Name Is Rar-Rar (which is really worth the asking price) there are two songs from Xaddax which are distinctly different.    There is a creeping rock sound on "Ripper" while "Bug March" is more of an instrumental number though there are these beeps/lasers which remind me of bugs somehow.  (But maybe bees?)   I kind of wish there was more Xaddax on here to listen to and that would be my only complaint with this release: Not enough Xaddax.   But alas, what is it they say: always leave them wanting more.

At the 13th spot there is a song called "Break (Silent Bonus Track)" and it is literally eight minutes of silence.    It's rather interesting because I sit through it all every time even though I could just as easily skip over it or delete it from the playlist of the album.   I'm not sure why I keep listening to it.   Maybe I'm hoping to find something that isn't there.   The final track is worthy of its own review, really, and this is something that you need to fully capture in both vinyl and digital forms.

Music Review:
(Mascarpone Discos)

From what I could find on the Massicot Bandcamp page, "Morse" was actually released back in 2015 but Mascarpone Discos released it on cassette three years later.  I'm not sure why this is but I have no problem with music being released after the fact because this album sat on Bandcamp for three years without me knowing about it and now I do.

Now that I've listened to "Morse" several times my problem is that I do not know quite how to describe the weirdo/art rock/punk sounds going on here.   It's kind of like R. Clown, who I just recently reviewed, but given this was made three years ago it's ahead of its time for sure.   It's noisy.  The first song has this certain driving rhythm and then it kicks in with distortion like the car just hits this accelerated speed and can only be seen as a blur.

The vocals of Mara Krastina should be easily compared with a band like Birthing Hips, Great Grandpa and even Delta Dart as those are my go-to artists in this realm, but Massicot just doesn't sound that similar with any of them.    So I think "What if the singer was a man?  What would this sound like then?  What if it was instrumental*? Who could I compare it with?"  The answer is, I have no comparisons.   *"Tarte" is instrumental.

How do I write about something which I don't know how to describe?  It's loud.   It's a ton of energy.   It's chaotic but precise in its delivery.   And overall, aside from being one of the single best pieces of music I've heard (and I'm now browsing the entire Massicot catalog) it is unlike anything I've ever heard before which means you, my dear reader, will likely find it even more unattainable.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Music Review:
Francisco Meirino & Bruno Duplant
"Dedans / Dehors"
(Moving Furniture Records)

For some reason, I've really been into duos lately.   Granted, you could look at an artist such as I Hate You Just Kidding and not realize based on their name that they are a duo, but I've really been listening to a lot of collaborative works which tend to be Artist 1 & Artist 2 in the way that they are written.    I'm not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing, but if you read all the reviews I think we can agree it is a good thing.

This album begins with the track "Dedans".   It has a field recording sound to it, where it appears to be people talking (and I always imagine situations like this as being in a coffee shop for some reason), they're laughing and on top of that is the ding of what could be a cash register but I assume is a triangle.   There is this brief sound like snoring and then these little squeals come in before it gets a little shakey.   The door creaks and the music begins to start beeping.   It grows rather intense before coming to a complete stop and the track is not even over yet.

Dings return as do the talking in the background.   There are some sharp/harsh static parts coming through as well.   It gets into these dark swirls with an ohm feel before it really feels like we're beginning to dredge through something.  It's a cross between sifting through sand and trying to escape quicksand.   I also enjoy how the sounds made by the artists themselves seem to overlap what I can only assume is the soundtrack of that previously mentioned coffee shop.   Though, it is entirely possible they are creating these sounds in front of people talking, in a live setting, but I find that line of thinking much more depressing.

Between the two song titles that are the album title comes a song called "Interstice".   It begins with applause and then there are footsteps.   Whispering and running water leads us back to the dings of the triangle.   It gets quiet and then sounds as if water is running from a faucet, much different than the earlier sounds of water.   Bell tones and bug zappers, spoken words and squeals which make me think of broken electronics: the way a television or radio might stop working for example and create a similar sound.

"Dehors" begins with this sort of haunted synth that you would expect to hear in some old monster movie.   It has elements of video games to it as well.   Laser shots are fired.   People begin talking again as there is this certain screen that could be a bird.   The people begin laughing and it sounds as if glasses are being tapped together.   So it is back to that sort of coffee shop feel but with some kind of baby bird (dinosaur?) making sounds as well.

Slow dings are out next with what sounds like a car door being closed.    There is this quieter winding, like an old fashioned watch, and then people can briefly be heard talking but it goes through a spell of minimal sound now.    It begins ringing through in waves which sound like a car horn before it becomes almost completely quiet.   A banging and singing can be heard in the distance.    Dark pianos now bring out what sound like lawn sprinklers.   I'm still not sure what this might be other than a candid soundtrack to a neighborhood in the suburbs. 

Within the talking, scuffling, dinosaur/bird chirping and even coughing there is this background pitch that is rather high and feel like could become a cause of tinnitus.   There are other sounds in here as well, scraping for example, but this one high frequency just seems to take over everything else.    Did you ever notice how when you listen to a sound such as this, when it is high pitched, once it stops it leaves this strange sensation in your ears?   I've always found that fascinating for some reason: the sound itself being one thing, but the after affects of it being another additional aspect.

Droid type beeps and whirrs come out with what could be the gentle pluck of some string and that background talking grows louder like at an airport.   A ringing such as a timer one would use for cooking comes in next and destroys all of the other aspects of this piece.   A soft piano plays in the background of it.    You can feel that this is the curtain call as soon as you hear it and this has been an interesting look into both the human mind and society as a whole.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Music Review:
Noose Rot
"The Creeping Unknown"
(Sentient Ruin)

I will be the first to admit that I haven't listened to a lot of music that has been along the lines of metal because I enjoyed it at one point in time and then it seemed like every band that was making so-called metal would have to add in these little melodies and singing parts to please some unknown audience.   It became difficult for me to find that straight up metal sound and, you know, there are a lot of bands out there that do exist on labels and they seem to be straight forward in their metal delivery (no emo added in) but they tend to all blend together for me.

With metal guitar notes and deep singing, almost growling, Noose Rot has this pace that is grinding.   It becomes faster at times but for the most part it maintains this brooding pace about it.    It has certain breakdowns that any true metal fans will love and even at times can remind me of old school Pantera.    It's just pounding and cannot be imitated in terms of what this sounds like.

Somewhere between Dead to Fall (that era of Victory Records) and other bands like Unearth, Noose Rot has the sound that I wish more metal bands would embrace.   It's a heavier version of Monolord in a lot of ways and I love that about it.    What I think of most when listening to these songs though is that this isn't that bullet to the head sound a lot of bands want to force upon you.   This is more of- in a visual sense- tortuing someone, inflicting that slow and painful death upon them.    Though, in no way is listening to these songs a form of suffering because I enjoy every second of it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Music Review: Japan Suicide "Santa Sangre" (Unknown Pleasures Records)

I can tell I've been listening to this Japan Suicide album for a while because of two reasons: for one thing, I've found myself singing along with these songs, which is not something that would come easy because this isn't really pop.   But another thing is that my notes still say that this has a sound where I would enjoy seeing them perform live on New Year's Eve, so I've obviously been listening to this since late last year. 

The sounds of Japan Suicide could be placed into a number of different genres, but what it is important is not what those individual genres are but what happens when they all combine at their various levels.   There is a psychedelic quality to these songs and I think it's because the fuzzy distortion seems to paint this cloud around the music-- I imagine them performing live in a cloud of fog for some reason.

At the same time, there are pieces of a band like The Cure in here but in a more modern take as well.  I'd assume that goes into something sort of -gaze category, perhaps shoegaze but perhaps a subgenre of it as well.   Maybe dreamgaze, psychgaze or darkgaze (or all three?) depending upon if those are real or not and what they mean.

In addition to that there is a metal feel to this.   Sometimes it can remind me of A Perfect CIrcle and other times it can remind me of Far.    It's not something where if you don't like metal though ("That music is too loud for me!") you'll be turned off by this because that seems to be one of the smaller influences in these songs.

What you have to realize- the amazing part of "Santa Sangre"- is that these different genres don't change from song to song.   It's like "Oh yeah, this is their heavy song and then this one is their really trippy song".   These elements are blended together and come out in all of their songs. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Music Review:
Sharon Gal "Delicious Fish"
(Fractal Meat Cuts)

"Delicious Fish" begins with a sort of chorus of vocals.   As it begins, within the first few moments, all you will hear are harmonies made by vocals.   This type of concept has always been interesting to me.   I'm not the biggest fan of a band who wants to sing all of the instruments parts (The Bobs are real! Google them) but if it can have a more subtle approach to it, such as Sharon Gal displays here, then I'm all in.   There is this almost drone tone to it, but again, it is being made entirely with the human voice and as such I think it just stands out from everything else out there.   It grows a little alien-like and that dark ohm tone can be heard in the background as well.

The vocals turn into these "who" type of sounds which fall somewhere between an ape and an owl.   (I'm writing a book now called "An Ape And An Owl"-- I've got dibs!)   This turns into a deep, hollow type of feel of drone which is no longer being made by a human voice.    It sounds like it could be coming from a cave somehow.    Perhaps that could make this a little "Planet of the Apes"-like.     The sound grows lighter, a bit more towards the glass side as the ringing increases as well.    As the piece continues it feels more and more like we are being taken into an abyss. 

The voices briefly return- though perhaps it is just one voice- before I believe the first song on Side A comes to an end.    Through whirrs and howls come sounds like crying, not sobbing because you're sad but more like a pained animal-- my mind for some reason pictures a wolf caught in one of those traps that starts as a circle and then snaps in half and closes.     Heavy breathing is also in the background of this all which just leaves me confused more than anything.     Somewhere between a pained cry and the humming of a bird, perhaps some other note, this side comes to a close leaving me wondering how there can seemingly be so many different forms of drone.

Ringing guitar (I believe guitar) notes start things off on Side B for the third and final movement.     I can hear the distortion but definitely feel it to be more of a drone guitar piece as it has that Hendrix fuzz which can be more recently related to an artist such as BBJr.    While this can change to come out in waves it mostly just sounds like one long sweet, sweet layer of feedback.     I begin to question at times whether or not all these sounds are still being made by a guitar, but it is only because I had heard the guitar earlier I believe that they still are.

As this song goes on it does get a bit darker.    It can feel relaxing but at the same haunted.    Before it reaches the end it turns from something which can generate a feeling within you into something which can mostly focus on creating images in your mind.   I'm not sure how to describe what happens with the sound exactly other than to think of it as a car racing faster and faster.   Perhaps you can even think of it as someone hitting that button to send them into hyperdrive.   It seems fitting as well because that particular sound trails off at the very end.

What Sharon Gal does on "Delicious Fish" is push.    For the first two pieces your ideas of how drone sounds and should sound will come into question.   Not only will you marvel at what Sharon Gal has created here, you will wonder why no one has really thought of this before.    At the same time, on the third and final piece, your mind will be taken to a place where it feels like it is listening to a guitar (and not just because the title is "Guitar Music") and you will begin to question that and everything you know about guitars.